Andy Biggs, the $10 Million Chairman, and His Tuesday Night Massacre

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Senator Biggs: Thanking God every day for Ed McMahon

It's apropos that state Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Andy Biggs, the man primarily responsible for a bill that will drive a Ryder Truck full of nitro through the state's Medicaid program, is himself a very wealthy man.

He's not rich through any sweat of his brow. He's not self-made. Hell, he didn't even inherit his fortune. Instead, he hit the jackpot. Quite literally.

You see, in 1993 Biggs won the American Family Sweepstakes, the one Ed McMahon and Dick Clark used to shill for back in the day. This has allowed the Gilbert Republican to live pretty well and care-free, despite the measly pay legislators receive. Though he has a law degree from the University of Arizona, he doesn't have to practice.

And I think we can all assume that when he or any member of his family is ill, they receive the best health care money can buy. And then some.

In 2002, when he was first running for the state House from Legislative District 22, he had this to say to the Arizona Republic:

"I can't say it (the $10 million) is my reason for running for office...But it does make it easier in that I don't have to answer 'How can you live on $24,000 a year?'"

Biggs was elected to the state Senate last year (after eight years in the House), and Chairman of the Appropriations Committee is a pretty plum assignment. In fact, it's state Senate President Russell Pearce's old job, a very influential gig. Other Senators bow and scrape before him.

So why does a powerful, millionaire-by-chance want to do away with the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the agency that administers federal and state (but mostly federal) Medicaid funds to the poor, the indigent, and those who just happen the be down on their luck in a bad economy?

Well, Biggs is an ideologue who believes AHCCCS is "socialized medicine," the bugbear of the far right. Of course, he's wrong. Socialized medicine would mean that everyone in America would be on one, federal plan. But that's not the case, even in the wake of the Obama administration's health care reform.

Medicaid is a last resort for the 1.8 million who use it in Arizona at any given time during the year. It's a safety net, not socialized medicine. By terminating AHCCCS, Biggs and other radical Republicans would save the state about $900 million, and forgo about $7.6 billion that the feds send our way for the program.

Biggs' Senate Bill 1519 -- which passed out of Appropriations during Tuesdays' marathon session, a session that could be rightfully dubbed the "Tuesday Night Massacre," for all the harm it did -- would give $900 million to the Arizona Department of Health Services to administer to the needy and indigent per annum. (The other $900 million goes to the state's general fund.)

"How do we fill the gap for all those people who need health care?" state Senator Kyrsten Sinema asked Biggs in committee. "$900 million is not the same as $1.8 [billion], plus $7.6 [billion]."

Biggs replied, "I don't make up that money, it's just that simple."

Now, you may be of a certain mean-spirited mindset that says, "To heck with the poor, they deserve their fate." Or you may think people should rely on private charity or family for support, though how either would pay your chemo tab if you have cancer is beyond me.

But even if you're Archie Bunker reincarnated, there's this thing called self-preservation. As both Sinema and Republican state Senator Rich Crandall observed at length, all hospitals rely on Medicaid money (as well as other federal funds) to survive.

Sick people who no longer have AHCCCS will inevitably flood emergency rooms. There will be no other place to go.

Sinema worried this would lead to a collapse of the hospitals in this state, particularly in rural areas, where medical centers depend heavily on that Medicaid money. Crandall, a CPA who once had a job auditing Arizona's hospitals, spoke with authority on Biggs' catastrophe-in-the-making.

"Let's talk about what would really happen," said Crandall of the possibility that Biggs' bill becomes law and goes into effect. "The first thing that will happen is that literally by Christmas time, there will not be a rural hospital open in Arizona. That's not a pie in the sky thing...[that] includes Yuma Medical Center, [that] includes Flagstaff Medical Center. I've seen their financials. I've been auditor for a long time."

Maricopa Integrated Health System would also crumble by Christmas, according to Crandall. MIHS includes trauma centers and the county hospital. Say bye-bye to that.

Crandall described the devastating economic fallout that would result from the collapse of the hospitals. Even if you aren't concerned about men, women and children dying on the street, corporations will not choose to open up shop in a state where the health care system is in shambles.

What did Biggs have to say to this? 

"[What] I inferred from what you said is, socialized medicine brings jobs," he told Crandall. Biggs then went on to lecture everyone about why socialized medicine is bad.

Crandall accused Biggs of twisting his words. 

Biggs replied, "Here's the way I take what you said. Socialized medicine is what our healthcare system is. Without it, it collapses. Without that, then business doesn't come to Arizona. Right?...I don't know that I disagree with that."

Um, like, yikes. Other Republicans suggested this bill would merely be cudgel with which they could force stakeholders to talk about reform. The bill will still have to pass the Senate and House and get the Governor's signature, of course.

But I wonder how many GOPers there are in the legislature who believe that the U.S. should go back to the days of the Great Depression, pre-FDR. When there wasn't a safety net, and if you didn't have a job, you starved. And if your daughter got really sick, she died.

Indeed, state Senator Sylvia "The Earth-is-6,000-years-old" Allen waxed poetic about Herbert Hoover's America during committee. Seems that if our state recession doesn't turn into a depression on its own, by gum, the Republinuts will make it happen.

Naturally, Chairman Biggs won't have to worry about that. Ten million dollars, as you can imagine, buys a lot of peace of mind. 

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17 comments
T Cretin
T Cretin

This isn't at all about saving money. This looks like an irrational move to get off the federal government dole. They're going to replace AHCCCS (with it's matching fed dollars) with a local system that does almost the same exact thing albeit by a combination of lowering the eligibility requirement and providing services through the private sector.

Arizonobozo
Arizonobozo

I'm confused, but perhaps you can teach me.

How can a privately-run system be "almost the same exact thing" if the state loses $7B of matching funds? Even if they lower the eligibility requirement, I can't see Arizona saving $7B (fed matching funds) + over $1B (state budget shortfall) = well over $8B.

The math makes no sense to me.

The Arizona legislature should shut its #@$%ing face, take the fed matching funds, and hike personal income tax rates for the lazy slobs who do nothing in this state except hire and fire slave-labor workers.

That's the BEST solution.

Leonardclark
Leonardclark

Filthy fascists ! They are getting their votes with the support of many clergy who preach that liberals are evil or sinners and that to vote for them would be tantamount to voting for the devil. It is this underlying fundamentalist social structure of conservative clergy who are setting up their clergy by the hundreds of thousands to vote for fascists like Russell Pearce. Now...if only the Progressive clergy out there would act like anti-bodies to the sickness we call facism and turn the hearts of their "sheep" who sell out their intelligence to vote for these fascists then...we might re-take our beautiful state of Arizona for love and humanity.Leonard Clark

Kenneth_A
Kenneth_A

I think to a Republican, winning or inheriting your wealth is hard work. Look at all those years they had to wait for it. Must have been nerve racking.

Boomer49
Boomer49

may God have mercy on his blackened tattered soul.

Arizonobozo
Arizonobozo

At least Arizonans now have an official gun to shoot each other with.

Chad Snow
Chad Snow

"I have no sympathy for people who don't pay their way in life," sneered Republinut state Senator Ron Gould as he voted for the measure.

I wonder what Gould thinks of that self made man Andy Biggs...

guest
guest

I like rich people more than I like poor people.poor people are always complaining about some thing or another.who wants to listen to all their negativity?

FightLikeAnEgyptianLisa
FightLikeAnEgyptianLisa

I was watching the AZ SS marching in lockstep issuing thier execution orders of the undesirables. No wonder the want concealed weapons in chamber, sounds like they are going to need them if this gets off the floor. They just sentenced my kids to death & my husband probably won't even get it after paying into the system all of our lives. That's what the kool aid drinkers don't get. Catastrophic shit happens, in our case times three, I'll just die from stress! Fuck these rich bastards!

Rob
Rob

With that kind of scratch, you gotta be curious which medical plan he's taken...the one offered by the State or did he stay private?

That would be interesting to learn.

Kit Carson
Kit Carson

Socialism isn't that big a word, yet Republicans seemingly have a hard time understanding it.

Here's a simple definition: a political theory advocating state ownership of industry.

We have a socialist military, postal service and, arguably, sewer services. Those are virtually industries owned by our government.

When you have government participation in an industry, where it competes and cooperates with private entities, you don't have socialism.

All claims that where the government pays for the medical expenses provided by private medical providors are made by fools, or worse, liars.

Is not it about time we started electing people who actually understand the words they use, or better yet can use them honestly in an open and respectful debate?

USAdefender1
USAdefender1

On a liter note Colt will be Arizona's official state gun! So you see not all is doom and gloom!

USAdefender1

guest...L
guest...L

Arizona is fast becoming a state where only the rich and financially syable will be able to afford to live. Hey maybe that's what the powers that be want. Then they can sit around and pew their racist jargon of hate and everyone will agree with each other. Kinda like Stepford wives....only they will be called Stepford Arizonans.

Former Republican
Former Republican

Those who are cast aside will be silenced and thrown into their "For-profit" prisons, once the 5,000 beds are jammed through behind closed doors. How do these people sleep at night? This is NOT the America we raised our family in and grew successful small businesses in. What a tragedy that greedy and soul-less people are in control.

vic
vic

Another one that Arizona can do without. Even with 10M, this guy is a low life.

Coz
Coz

It amazes me that those that can actually afford health care or have it provided for them free of charge because of politics and elected to office always want to fuck those that can't.

Greedy fucking assholes is what they are.

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